Seventh Sunday after Trinity – July 26, 2020
Reading: SLIDE 1, SLIDE 2, SLIDE 3, SLIDE 4 -title slide
- Open bibles/apps to Eph 1.
- While turning there… Covid-19 and racial tensions, political wrangling…, why study a 2000 yr old letter: what could be more irrelevant. Why not study something more immediately applicable to our day to day lives, like …. PRAY for US and our world…
- Last week, we looked at vv.5-6 of chapter one of this letter, in which we learned that the Father predetermined that he would lovingly adopt us into his family as his own children (v.5), then inundate us with his favor (v.6)
- This afternoon, we’re going to examine verses 7-8, to see how Paul now pivots to focus on the ministry of Jesus in God’s great plan of salvation.
- We want to begin with some opening observations about these verses within the larger literary context of vv.3-14. SLIDE 5
- First, note the three-part structure of the passage. Remember that the whole text is one extended exclamation of worship directed to God the Father, recited by Paul to an amanuensis, a guy skilled in taking dictation…. So the section is all directed as praise to God the Father but it carefully distinguishes the individual roles of the Father, Son and Spirit in bringing about our salvation, and each of the three sections end with a liturgical rejoinder: “to the praise of his glory” or something similar.
v.3-6 Father Past Chose, predestined for adoption, blessed with grace
(Aorist) v.6: ”to the praise of the glory of his grace”
v.7-12 Son Present Redeems, forgives, reveals
v.12: ”to the praise of his glory”
v.13-14 Spirit Future Sealed, securing future inheritance
v.14: ”to the praise of his glory”
- Second, SLIDE 6 let’s look at the grammatical structure of vv.7-8
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins”. This is the main clause and the central claim of the text: that by means of our connection to Jesus, two things happen to us: we are redeemed or ransomed and we are forgiven of all our sins. How were these blessings conferred on us? SLIDE 7 It was:
according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished on us. This phrase emphasizes the extravagance of God’s saving activity. Did God lavish any thing else on us? SLIDE 8 He did:
with all wisdom and insight.” This phrase completes the unit by proposing that, along with the riches of God’s redeeming and forgiving works, He also bestows on us the two additional blessings of spiritual wisdom and insight.
- Alright, SLIDE 9 with that bit of introduction, let’s zero in the main clause:
Exposition of 1:7-8
“In whom (Him) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins”
- In our introduction to this letter five weeks ago, I mentioned that the letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul in prison in Rome at about the same time as his letter to the Colossian church, about 100 miles inland in present day Turkey. Because of this, you have a number of statements in Eph that are very closely paralleled in Colossians. This verse provides a good example. SLIDE 10 Compare it with Col 1:14: “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Same thought: Eph adds “ through his blood” and “our” before sins and uses a synonym for sins, very similar. SLIDE 11 Back to Ephesians
- En ho. This refers back to the preceding words: in the Beloved, in Christ. Again Paul uses this idea he has repeated so often: “in Christ”. SLIDE 12
- “in Christ Jesus” (v1)
- “in Christ” (v3)
- “in him” (v4)
- “in the Beloved” (v6)
- now, “in Him/whom (v7)
- 5x in 7 verses so far
Harold Hoener: “it denotes location or sphere and here specifically indicates an internal close relationship.” Instead of being called Christians, its more accurate that we be called “in-Christ ones.” SLIDE 13
- As we noted earlier, is present tense. Our salvation is an ongoing reality, the effects of which we enjoy in the here and now as well as in the life to come. Clint Arnold: “This enables Paul to stress the present experience of redemption and forgiveness that believers enjoy through their dynamic relationship to the exalted Lord.” SLIDE 14
- Redemption is apolutrosis and is used 10x in NT, 7x by Paul, 3x in Eph. It means “deliverance, liberation, ransom”. The main idea is the release or setting free of someone based on the payment of a ransom. It could be a slave, a prisoner or a captive of war. Snodgrass: “purchasing of buying back some item or person that would otherwise be lost, taken prisoner or destroyed.”
- The Ephesians would have been well acquainted with the concept of redemption. Slavery was commonplace throughout the Roman empire, and everyone in the church would have been slaves, known slaves, owned slaves and would be familiar with the process of redeeming a slave from the slave market.
- Redemption is one of the dominant metaphors for God’s saving actions in both the OT and NT. In the OT, the prime illustration is the Exodus event, when God redeemed the nation from its forced labor in Egypt. 2 Sam 7:23; Dt 7:8; 9:26; 13:5. God did this through his works of power in the Ten Plagues, the last of which, significantly, involved a sacrificial lamb in the Passover observance.
- In the NT, Jesus understood the purpose of his incarnation and ministry in terms of redemption. In Mark 10:45: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to offer his life as a ransom (lutron) for many”. Once again, God performed this redemption through his works of power in the ministry and resurrection of Jesus—when he routed the evil principalities and powers—and the sacrifice of Christ, the lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.
- The result is that we, as God’s new covenant people, have experienced a second exodus. God has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13) and bondage to sin (Rom 6:6-23). The letter to the Ephesians makes it clear that God’s redemption of us is comprehensive. Before we were in Christ, we were victims of three forces: the world, the flesh (internalized structures that implicate us in behaviors and attitudes that are selfish rather than God honoring and other’s honoring), and the devil (Ruler of the power of the air, Eph 2:2). In redeeming us, God sets us free from all three of these.
- The only piece of the redemption puzzle not fully ours is the glorification of our bodies at Christ’s second coming. But God has given us the promised Holy Spirit who is a down payment and guarantee that our bodies will be transformed into the body possessed by the resurrected Christ when He returns. So, the redemption we have experienced in Jesus Christ is complete, entire, lacking nothing.
- What price did God pay for our redemption? SLIDE 15 We’ve already hinted at this, but now Paul makes it explicit:
“through his blood.”
- The mention of blood made it clear Paul was not just referring to Jesus’ death, but his death by sacrifice. That’s an important point. Sacrificial animals (animals devoted to Yahweh) were never strangled as they sometimes were in non-Israelite religions, but were killed by means ofritual blood letting by cutting the throat. So, mention of the blood would automatically trigger thoughts of a ritualized death by sacrifice.
- In the Sinaitic covenant, the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. We see this, for example, in:
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life”.
- Compare this to Heb 9:22
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
- So, the mention of blood here in connection with Jesus means that Christ took our place as a ritual sacrifice, thereby taking on himself all the guilt, condemnation and punishment we had accrued throughout the course of our lives. As Paul put it in:
2 Cor 5:21
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- This is the logic of justification: our sins become Christ’s, and his righteousness becomes ours in a merciful exchange. Paul then expounds on our redemption SLIDE 16 by Jesus as entailing:
“the forgiveness of our sins.”
- Grammatically, this phrase is appositional to the preceding one: meaning it’s placed in apposition to it; it is grammatically parallel (neither subordinate nor superordinate) and shares the same referent.
- The connection to the previous thought is one of cause and effect: Forgiveness of sins is the result of being released from bondage through the ransom payment consisting of Christ’s blood.
- Sin here is paraptoma, meaning “lapse, false step, mistake, deviation, error, fall, fault, offence, transgression or trespass”. Lit. means to “slip or fall beside or near something.” Used 19x in NT, 16x by Paul, 3x in Eph (here, 3:1, 5).
- The more common NT word for sin is harmartia, used 173x in NT, 64x in Paul, only once in Eph 2:1. It’s basic meaning is “to miss the mark”.
- Some scholars suggest the distinction is that paraptoma refers to individual sinful actions, where harartia can refer to the general condition of sin afflicting all humanity. But that is not a widely held view.
- Forgiveness is aphesis, used 17x in NT and 45x in the Gk. translation of the OT called the Septuagint (LXX). It means “release, remission, pardon, deliverance, amnesty, liberty.” It derives from a verb which means “to send away.” When used with reference to our sins, then, it suggests that, because of God’s mercy in Christ, He sends our sins away from us, so we are no longer identified with them. We have a new identity entirely divorced from our prior identity as the one who committed those sins. Ps 103:12 SLIDE 17 gives a beautiful expression to this idea when David writes:
“As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he [Yahweh] removed our transgressions from us.”
The east to west comparison is intentional: How far is the east from the west? North from the south is different? 12,430 miles. SLIDE 18
- We often think of forgiveness as a purely personal act. And it definitely has very personal dimensions when one person chooses to release another from a certain resentment or retaliation to which they might be entitled due to an offence caused. (possibly expand)
- But there is also a strong legal component to the language of forgiveness in the bible. SLIDE 19 Even in our contemporary world, we talk about the forgiveness of a debt, for example, the pardon of a crime or the granting of amnesty. All of these are aspects of the biblical conception of forgiveness, and all of them point to the permanent character of God’s forgiveness of our sins.
- You see, there is a synonym for forgiveness in the Gk. language: paresis. Paul used it in Rom 3:25 when he said, speaking of Christ:
“whom God put forward as an atonement by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
- You see the logic here (explain….). “Passed over” is the verb paresis, and it involves the temporary suspension of those sins committed before the cross but not the final cancellation of them. So, Adam and Eve, Moses, David, Sarah, Abraham: their sins were passed over—temporarily suspended—while they waited in Sheol, the place of the dead. SLIDE 20
- But when Jesus died on the cross and said “It is finished” in John 19:28, the word is He used is tetelestai in the Grk., “Paid in full”. Those sins were permanently removed from their record, and those OT saints were released from their time of waiting in the afterlife, and they were taken by Jesus up to heaven when he returned there at his ascension.
- The “passing over” of sins prior to the death and resurrection of Christ stands in stark contrast to the forgiveness God extends to us who have sinned in this period of history subsequent to Jesus’ death and resurrection. His forgiveness is not a mere temporary suspension of punishment, but a permanent cancellation of our sins and their punishment. It is nothing less than the total, final, and complete abolition, deletion and elimination of our sins from the legal record, such that, if you were to look for them in the court of heaven, you would never find them because they do not exist. Even the cosmic hard drive has been wiped clean: “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It is as if all your sins never happened. This is true right now of every one of us who is putting his/her trust in Jesus Christ.
- Do you see how dumb it is for us, then, to act as though we are still condemned, guilty sinners? We’ve all guilty of this at various times. We sin, and then, after we’ve blown it, instead of confessing our sin to the Lord and quickly getting back on track, we go to this deep place of self-loathing and languish in our sins and mope around with stricken consciences, carrying the weight of condemnation our backs, instead of dancing in the freedom of God’s full, free pardon.
- And there’s a really weird spiritual rationalization we make in our minds. We think that we are being all humble by flagellating ourselves in our guilt, when, in actuality, we are being arrogant. It’s a form of subtle pride when we refuse to simply accept what God has said to be true of our forgiven condition. We’re saying in effect: “I see what the bible teaches, but this feels more real to me”. That’s just rank unbelief, and we need to repent of not taking God at his word!
- When we sin, we mustn’t wallow in it. We need to let it drive us into the arms of our heavenly Father who takes us up into his embrace and forgives us again in Christ.
- Back to Eph 1, SLIDE 21 Paul goes on to assert that God has forgiven us:
“according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us,”
- “riches” is ploutos, “wealth, fullness, treasures”. Same word used in LXX in 1 Kings 10:23 to refer to the fabulous wealth of King Solomon, which was said to exceed all the riches of all the kings of the earth at that time in the ANE.
- Note that Paul says God gives to us “according to” rather than “out of” the riches of His grace. That’s an important detail. “According to” expresses the idea of proportionality. So, to give according to one’s wealth means to give in proportion to one’s wealth. See the point? SLIDE 22 Let me illustrate it
- Imagine that Elon Musk decides to come to your birthday party. Would you rather him give you a gift “out of” his wealth: maybe a hundred or a thousand bucks? (which is nothing to sneeze at) or “in proportion to his wealth”? What would a proportional gift look like for a guy whose net worth is over $70B? A few billion bucks? A house or two? A fleet of Teslas? You get the point.
- When Paul says God blesses us with redemption and forgiveness in proportion to the infinite riches of God’s grace, he uses this phrase to underscore the immeasurable immensity and boundless generosity of God’s act of giving.
- But Paul doesn’t leave it there: SLIDE 23 He then goes on to accentuate the same point even more dramatically in the next phrase:
- “which He lavished on us”. Lavished is perisseuo, 39x NT, 26x Paul. Another way to translate this is: “He abounded to us, poured out on us, he inundated us or flooded us”. Think of the rich profusion of flowers that crop up each spring in our gardens and in places like Table Mountain. That’s a good pictoral representation of this verb.
- Here’s another. SLIDE 24 It’s like you need a cup of water and instead of a cupful God gives you Niagara Falls. Jesus described this kind of overflowing provision in Luke 6:38 when he talked about the calculus of generosity.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.”
- God’s provision of grace for us in Jesus is utterly effusive, superabounding, extravagant and never ending. And when we reflect his generosity to others, he goes even more overboard it seeing to it that our needs are richly met.
- But, according to this text, God doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t simply give us the blessings of redemption and forgiveness in immeasurable quantities. He adds something else. SLIDE 25 He blesses us, Paul writes:
“with all wisdom and insight.”
- Wisdom is sophia. Used 51x in NT, 28x by Paul, 3x in Eph (1:8,17; 3:10). JB Lightfoot called it: “insight into the true nature of things”. Used here, it is insight into the true nature of God’s revelation of salvation in Christ by the Spirit. Richard Lenski: “wisdom is the penetrating insight into the divine realities.”
- Insight is ‘phronesis. Used only twice in NT (here and Lk 1:17). Means “discretion, discernment, understanding.” According to Harold Hoener: “It has the idea of understanding the relevance of God’s revelation in the present time… it speaks of the practical side of wisdom.”
- So, while wisdom is the spiritual understanding of divine realities, insight is an understanding of how to act in light of those realities, how to live in view of what God says is true.
- “All” is pase. “every kind of, all sort of.”
- In summarizing this last clause, Andrew Lincoln: “God’s lavish grace not only provides redemption but also supplies, along with this, all necessary wisdom and insight to understand and live in the light of what he has done in Christ.”
- God has given you, in His Word, though the ministry of His Church (His people) and the direct witness of his Holy Spirit residing in you, literally every form of spiritual wisdom, understanding and insight that you need to successfully live a thriving, Christ-honoring life.
- There are two take aways I want to leave you with:
- First, God has redeemed and forgiven you in Christ. Never, ever forget that. Stand in the confident knowledge of that fact. Rejoice in it! But the fact that he has redeemed us doesn’t mean you will no longer fall into sin. You will, and God has accounted for that fact ahead of time and given us a simple mechanism to get us back on the road when we get off track. It’s found in 1 Jn 1:9. SLIDE 26 If you haven’t memorized it, you should: it’s that important.
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
- Second, SLIDE 27 God has given us all sorts of wisdom and insight through His bible, His people and His Spirit. They are there for the asking. When you don’t know what to do, go to God and ask him. Get in the habit of asking him continually, Prov 2:3-5 is a good guide here:
“If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
Often, God doesn’t give us answers immediately. He does this to grow our trust and develop our dependence on Him. He wants us to become persevering. So, if you are struggling with an issue and need God’s wisdom, keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking. Read Scripture, pray, fast, seek godly counsel. But don’t give up. He will give you what you ask for. But you need to persevere.
- So, stand in the assurance of your redemption and forgiveness in Christ. And ask God continuously what to do in the situations in which you find yourself so you can tap into the rich reservoir of wisdom and insight he’s made available to you in Christ.
Let’s close in prayer